Recent discussions in Matthew 12 provide good, strong evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity. It shows the accuracy of the Bible, the divine self-awareness and prophetic knowledge of Jesus, and most of all perhaps, the importance of the resurrection as a verification of Christ’s claims. The sign of Jonah is still the greatest of all signs.
Sadly, signs are not always followed, and the evidence even for so great a matter as the truthfulness of Christianity is often not believed. This is what Jesus talks about next. The Pharisees had asked Jesus for a sign, and Jesus had given one, though it was a sign that would not be seen by them until the close of His earthly ministry and His return to heaven. Would they believe Him then? Jesus was under no illusions on this point. He saw their reaction as clearly as He saw the resurrection itself, and what He saw was their utter unbelief. They had the sign of His resurrection, but they would respond in exactly the opposite way as did the men of Nineveh, who believed when Jonah preached to them, and as did “the Queen of the South,” who came from far off Ethiopia to see and learn from Solomon.
The sign made a comparison between Jesus and Jonah. Both were signs because of their supernatural deliverance. But the similarities stop there, since the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, while in the case of Jesus, the hearts of the people were hardened. The people Jesus knew would not believe Him. Building on what He had said earlier about Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom in His denunciation of the unbelief of the Galilean cities, Jesus declared that the citizens of Nineveh would rise at the judgment to condemn His own generation since they repented at Jonah’s preaching while the people of Jesus’ day would not repent, even though a far greater person than Jonah was among them. The same was true of “the Queen of the South,” that is, the queen of Sheba. She came to see Solomon and learn from him, and Jesus was far greater even than that great king of Israel.
When I read this, I tremble for our own generation. It is true that Jesus was present in that day, and He is not physically present on earth now. But there is far more evidence for the truth of Jesus’ claims today, including His bodily resurrection, than there was in the first Christian century. What shall we say of a generation that is able to turn its back on that witness and suppose in its folly that it is the master of its destiny and that all is well with its soul?
Here is a frightening description of our age: Jesus’ picture of a man who had been delivered of an evil spirit but who had nothing of value to put in the evil spirit’s place. So afterward the evil spirit returned, and the man was possessed not by one evil spirit but by seven. Our contemporaries have heard the Gospel, but most have rejected it. Is that true of you? Do you have nothing inside but the husks of an empty materialism or sensuality? If so, your last condition will be worse than your first, and you will perish along with all other unbelievers at the last judgment.
What a grim chapter this has been, and it looks as if it will end even more grimly when we read about Jesus’ mother and brothers coming to where He was teaching, asking to speak with him. Matthew reports this without further explanation, but in Mark 3.21 we discover why they came. They said, “He is out of his mind.” This was the same judgment the Pharisees had been making, though they said it in less flattering terms: “He is possessed by Beelzebub!.” It is not a very nice picture of Jesus’ family, but what else could they conclude? How could any sane man claim to be greater than Jonah? Or King Solomon?
None, of course! Unless He was the Son of God, the Messiah!
That has been the concern of these chapters all along, from the beginning of chapter 11 to the end of chapter 12, and it is the right question to ask. Is Jesus really God’s Messiah? Is He the King? At this point Jesus’ mother and brothers were not able to answer by saying yes. They thought He had merely gone off the deep end. However, it is important to note that they all eventually did believe on Him. Mary and His brothers appear along with all the other early believers in Acts 1.12-14, where they are observed worshiping together. As for James, he emerges in time as the leader of the first Church council, reported in Acts 15.
Yet the important issue now is not whether they believed or not. The question is whether you believe and whether you will follow Jesus, for who are those who belong to Jesus’ family? It is not those who were born into His natural family according to the flesh. Jesus makes that perfectly clear in these last verses. It is those who have become His disciples, those who have denied themselves, taken up their crosses, and followed Him. Pointing to His disciples, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
What is the will of the Father? By now you should know the answer to that. It is that people everywhere might repent of their sin and believe on Jesus as King and Savior. That is what God wants you to do. In fact, He commands it. Will you commit yourself to Jesus Christ? It is the way of salvation and the path to life.